Thursday, July 16, 2009

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke at the Peninsula Hotel in downtown Beijing

Locke and Bob Poole (see anecdote below)

Gary Locke was in Beijing along with Secretary of Energy Steven Chu for a three-day whirlwind tour earlier this week, their first visit as part of the Obama administration. Neither men are newcomers to China, as both are ethnically Chinese, though Locke made a point of saying in his speech at the Peninsula Hotel in an event jointly hosted by the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) and U.S.-China Business Council (USCBC) that though he's proud of his heritage, his loyalties lie fully with America.

I really have nothing more to add to what has already been reported (full text of Locke's speech here) except to say the Peninsula's food was delicious (chicken, rice, fancy dessert) and the secretary was, how shall we say, political, perhaps a bit overly so. Between adding a word to fundraise for the Shanghai Expo and lobbying for the president's energy and trade policies and using that classic tale about how it took his family 100 years to move one mile (from the servant's house in Olympia, Washington to the governor's mansion), he was quite... political. Which means charming and smart, of course, but in that nearly fake, certainly put-on sort of way.

There was one funny exchange towards the end that you won't find in any news reports though. As USCBC Vice President of China Operations Bob Poole was trying to wrap up the Q-and-A session so everyone could go home (or back to work, in some cases), Locke, ever the charismatic politician, said, "We've got time for a few more."

Poole, without missing a beat, replied, "You're driving the bus today?"

The audience laughed.

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